A Dissolving View of Carrick Meagher

I.

PHILOSOPHERS tell us that life is a circle, but it is not often a circle that rounds and completes itself within the observation of a single spectator. The mighty curve stretches forward and backward, but even in the case of our nearest friends it is but a limited zone that falls under our notice.

Many a man, whose taste has led him to observe the varied figures that troop across his path, has been struck with some particular face ; has watched it as it lingered, has recalled it as it vanished, and has turned back to the big magiclantern show amid which we live with the feeling that here was an individuality worthy to be fixed in less fleetingcolors. But we cannot fix it. The romancer may shape and pursue through a world of selected adventures the being he has created; but the observer of nature must be content with the brief glimpse afforded him, as his specimen is carried across a microscopic field of vision. And yet this fellow-mortal, of whom we know so little, may be the hero of an epic, but in our hearing that epic will never be sung. He may be the genius who is destined to shake the world, but he has passed beyond our ken ere he puts his hand to the lever. We all have had peeps at possible prodigies, but before anything has occurred to justify our expectation the slide was withdrawn from the magic-lantern and the scene changed.

It was in San Francisco, many years ago. Then Big Bonanza shares went begging at twelve dollars apiece ; since then they have commanded thousands ; now they are back at tens again. Poor men have become rich, rich men have become poor, and many who were the briskest have stepped aside out of the ranks. Fifteen years have passed — and that is a long space on a Golden Gate calendar — since Gerald Ffrench was the editor of the Irish Eagle, and filled many columns of that ephemeral sheet with essays on political dynamite.

One morning he had a visitor. There was a sharp knock on the open door of the office, and a voice inquired, —

“ Is this the office of the Irish Aigle ? ”

Gerald Ffrench glanced up, and answered in the affirmative. He was well used to callers in the editorial sanctum, patriots from the Pajaro Valley and other outlying districts, who never visited San Francisco without stopping at the “ Aigle ” to ascertain if, perchance, that mighty organ of the Pacific coast Nationalists had fulfilled its mission, and driven into the sea the British garrison in Ireland. So, with a cheery tone, as who should say, “ England is all right as yet; but wait, we are not idle,” Gerald bade the visitor enter.

The latter came forward briskly, and dropped into the other chair. Ffrench saw at a glance that this was no hornyfisted farmer from Pajaro, no politician from Sacramento, no ditcher from the tule lands. He was an Irishman, of course, — his presence in the Eagle office proved so much, — but so far as Gerald could determine, he was a hitherto undescribed specimen. He was a man of thirty-five or thereabouts, and his light brown hair was long and disheveled. His face was as the face of a Nazarite, for no razor had ever touched it,—a queer, small-featured face, masked by a thicket of whisker, and lit by bright, eager blue eyes.

“Are you the iditor ?”

His brogue was distinct and unmistakable, and yet he spoke like an educated man. Gerald was puzzled. He simply bowed, and waited.

“ I 've been a journalist, off an’ on, for a good many years,” the stranger went on. “ I ’m an Irishman by burruth, though you might n’t think it, for I 've been so much away from the ould counthry that wandeiring on a foreign strand has dulled the spache of fatherland.”

“ I think I should have recognized you for a fellow-countryman.” answered Gerald suavely, “ and I 'm glad to meet a brother journalist. Mr. — Mr.” —

“ Meagher, sir ; me name is Meagher, — Carrick Meagher, It sounds like the name of a town, I know, he went on apologetically; “ an’ so in wan sinse it is, but it ’s my name, too.”

“ Have you been long in San Francisco, Mr. Meagher?” inquired Ffrench, as soon as he had introduced himself to his new acquaintance.

“ Not long, sir, not long. I came up from Callao last wake in a sailing vessel. Sartin sarcumstances,” he went on, dropping his voice to more confidential tones, “ not wholly unconnected wid a distinguished Peruvian family, compelled me to abandon a lukkerative position there, an’ once more to clasp to my bussum that chilling but familiar phantom, the wide-wide wurruld.”

Meagher was a very little man, but so tiny was the office and so expansive was the gesture that he used to emphasize his words that a whole flock of unsold Eagles came fluttering down from the shelves where they roosted. With a hasty apology he set about remedying the mischief he had caused. As soon as he had finished he resumed his seat.

“ And now, Mr. Ffrench, I 've come to apply for a position on the staff of the Irish Aigle.”

Gerald checked the smile that rose to his lips, and answered gravely. He could not but notice that Meagher s garments, though whole and respectable, were worn with that indescribable touch of deprecation which goes with a single suit. He had caught a touch of wistfulness in the question, as the little fellow put it, and he fancied that the blue eyes which peered so sharply out of the tangle of straw-colored hair might well have owed some of their eagerness to hunger. — yes, to hunger. There is no city in our civilization where that torture of the destitute does not follow close on empty pockets. Gerald realized that a few weeks ago he had not been many meals ahead himself, and that the Irish Eagle had intervened only just in time.

But was that patriotic bird endowed with power of wing to support a double burden ? Its editor might well doubt it. He shook his head, and explained the position to Meagher. The paper had been started quite recently by a little knot of patriots, and it was far from being a paying concern. There was no staff, — only one young editor and one old printer, and the salaries of both were already in arrears. And then, by way of softening the blow, — for that it was a blow the other’s face clearly showed, — Gerald applied the styptic generally recommended in California for all wounds of the mind and most wounds of the body : he invited his new acquaintance to come down to the corner and have a drink.

McKeon’s bar looked bright and cheerful, and McKeon’s " free lunch " was spread with true Californian prodigality. This lunch afforded as good a meal as a man need ask,—soup, joint, vegetables, bread and cheese; but it was “ free ” only in the sense that all who paid for liquid refreshments were welcome. To the man without a “ bit ” in his pocket, it was only one degree more substantial than a feast of the Barmecide. He could look, but he Could not touch. Mr. Carrick Meagher, however, in right of Gerald’s invitation, quickly showed that, brief as had been his sojourn in San Francisco, he was no novice in the mysteries of a free lunch.

But appetite is intermittent, and Meagher, although by no means certain when such another opportunity might arise, was at last compelled to desist. As the pair passed through the saloon, Mr. Martin Doyle accosted Gerald and proffered further hospitality, at the same time requesting the favor of an introduction to his “ frind.”

Doyle was the president of the Eagle Publishing Company, and the most active of the governing body, which, though it consisted of himself and four friends, was generally known as the " Thryumvirate.”The introduction appeared to afford satisfaction both to Mr. Doyle and the stranger, and the former’s invitation to “ thry a drop o’ somethin’ ” was promptly and cheerfully accepted.

Meagher, fortified by a hearty meal and exhilarated by a little whiskey, became quite talkative ; but his talk was interesting even to Gerald, while it seemed to hold Mr. Doyle spellbound. Very soon that gentleman suggested an adjournment to the back-room, where, with a bottle and glasses on the table and a big cigar between his lips, he listened with bated breath to Meagher’s accounts of where he had been and what he had seen.

He was last from Peru, as he had told Gerald ; he had been employed in some metallurgical works at Callao, and he assured his hearers that he was a first-class practical assayer and mineralogist. He did not touch on the reason why he abandoned the position further than to remark, with his hand on his breast, “ A leedy’s name must be seecred; ye 'll excuse me, gentlemen, if I pass that by.”

Gerald found it difficult to associate with the tender passion that diminutive figure and quizzical little monkey face, but he was polite enough to smother a laugh ; while Mr. Doyle seemed to appreciate the situation, and to respect the other the more for his reticence.

“ To be sure, Mr. Meagher, — to be sure,”said honest Martin. “ I admire yer delicacy. But tell me, where were ye afore ye went to Peru ? ”

“ I was war correspondent for the Cork Examiner, an’ I was shut up in Paris the whole of the siege.”

“ Do you tell me, now ? ” asked the wondering Doyle. At this time the great Franco-Prussian struggle was fresh in people’s minds, for it was as long ago as ’74 that the Irish Eagle flourished.

“ I was indade, an’ a great deal of trouble I had. No remittances from my paper could I get, an many a day I walked the boulevards hungry, wondering what was the best thing I could do.”

“ An’ what did ye do ? ” inquired Doyle with unabated interest, while Gerald experienced a certain relief at learning that his new acquaintance’s penniless predicament was nothing new to him.

“ Well, I enlisted as a mobile: that was four sous a day, an’ a loaf of bread, an’ a shake-down in the Prince Eugene barracks.”

Gerald became grave again, as he realized that this device was impracticable in San Francisco. At the same time, though Meagher was very glib with names, dates, and facts, the young editor began to suspect that the little man was romancing.

“ An’ ye were a soldier ! ” cried Doyle admiringly. “ Did ye iver kill a Proosian ? ”

“ Never saw wan that I know of till the day they entered the city. No ; I was more like a kind of policeman.”

At this modest statement Gerald’s confidence rose again. If the new-comer had been merely bragging, it would have been so easy to sacrifice hecatombs of foes.

“ Then I went a good deal wid the Irish colony, — as many of them as were left,” resumed Meagher. “ The name I bore was passport enough for that.”

“ An’ d’ ye mane to say that ye 're related to the great, the immortal pathriot, Thomas Francis Meagher?” inquired Doyle, in a tone of awe-stricken admiration that made Gerald a little uncomfortable. A pretty end it would be to his hospitality if his resignation were to be desired the following day, to make room for this ready-tongued upstart !

But Carrick’s answer reassured him. The Irishman might be a great boaster, but he was no liar, even when a lie was to his manifest advantage.

“ No, I don’t think I am, — I never could trace any relationship, anyhow ; but you know yourself that nobody named Meagher need stand long knocking at an Irishman’s dure.”

“ In troth an’ he need n’t! ” answered Doyle with enthusiasm ; but he cooled down as he perceived how this deft and destitute little stranger had entrapped him into an admission which it might be inconvenient to live up to and impossible to retract.

Carrick saw his advantage, and drove it home.

“ Now, as I ’m temporarily embarrassed, — in fact, as I have n’t a cint to my name,” he began, and Doyle shivered as he prepared to dodge the impending loan, — “I 've been thinking I might be able to do something for your paper.”

Doyle breathed again. This was a business proposition, which could be met on a business basis.

“ Well, I dunno.” he said slowly; “ money’s tight an’ pathriots is poor. The Aigle ’s not to say on a payin’ footin’. Besides that, Mr. Ffrench here is fully aquil to all the wurruk that is to be done ” —

“ I don’t doubt that at all,” interrupted Carrick, with a queer little bow to Gerald, “ an’ I would n’t presume to interfare wid him. But I ’ve been looking at the paper. It wants some fresh departments. What d’ ye say to a Paris letter, now ? ”

“ I dunno,” answered Doyle slowly.

“ It sounds big and would look big" —

“ To be sure it would, — ' From our own Paris correspondent; ’ an’ it would trate of Irish affairs in the French capital. Paris is full of pathriots.”

“ Sure I know that,” replied Doyle feebly ; “ but I know no wan in Paris, an’ ” —

“ Ach, if that’s all,” interrupted Carrick, with an indescribable snort of triumph, “ I ’ll write you a Paris letter ivery wake in your own office. What’s wanted for a letter ? That ye know the city you 're writin’ from an’ the people in it. Well, I know that, —at laste the Irish colony, an’ that’s all you have to care about. Then with the French papers to kape me up to the time, — an’ those I can get here, — I 'll turn ye out such a letter as any wan of your readers would swear came straight from the Boulevard des Italiens, av they ’d ever happened to hear of such a place.”

Martin Doyle wavered visibly. “ An’ how much would ye charge for the like ? ” he asked at last.

Carrick Meagher’s sharp blue eyes shot a quick glance through their hairy foliage. He was evidently settling in his own mind the maximum figure which the other might be expected to stand. Nevertheless, the pause was scarcely noticeable, and the answer came unhesitatingly : “ Three dollars a letter.”

“ It ’s a go,” answered Martin, knitting his brows ever so little. “ Now let’s have wan more drink to wet the bargain, an’ then get to wurruk.”

Carrick Meagher had gauged his man’s financial stature almost to an inch. If he had asked for five dollars, the negotiation would have ended then and there. Martin Doyle had made up his mind to pay two dollars and a half per letter, but he had accepted the proposition, not considering fifty cents worth haggling over.

So Carrick Meagher joined Gerald Ffrench on the staff of the Irish Eagle.

II.

For a few weeks the Paris letters appeared regularly. They were remarkably clever, and, notwithstanding the circumstances under which they were written, had an air of reality which might have imposed on readers far more critical than any for whom they were intended. By degrees, however, the correspondence grew intermittent, and finally ceased altogether. Modest as was the price agreed upon, it was not always paid. Indeed, any one of the “ Thryumvirate ” would much prefer to spend two dollars over McKeon’s bar in treating a creditor than one dollar in paying him.

Carrick Meagher, who was really a brilliant man, soon fell into the ways of the new city, and, without attaching himself to the staff of any particular newspaper, was able to earn a good income by contributing special articles to the various Sunday editions. He had an easy, graphic style, — not particularly polished, but always readable, — and he was an expert on various subjects. At one period of his wandering life he had followed the sea, and he could write with knowledge on ships and sailors. He was a good practical metallurgist, and in California that is a trade which always commands its price. But Carrick refused many tempting offers to resume his old profession, and contented himself with writing about it. His was a vagrant genius, and the independent Bohemianism of the life he led suited him perfectly.

Gerald and Meagher remained fast friends through it all. Even after the latter had left the Eagle he was always ready to assist its editor with his advice, or even with his pen when work pressed, and this at a time when every article he wrote commanded fifteen or twenty dollars. In his moments of despondency he liked to entice Gerald away to some congenial haunt, and there discourse of his broken heart and the beautiful darkeyed Senorita who pined for him in Lima.

“ Pobre cita,” he would sigh, with a languishing roll of his funny little head. “ The love that is sundered by seas an’ years hath nothing to live on but thoughts an’ tears.”

Meagher was fond of interlarding his speech with scraps of verse, few of which Gerald could identify, while most of them were wholly unknown to him ; so that he sometimes doubted whether to class these adornments of his friend’s conversation as quotations or improvisations.

The true story of Garrick’s ill-fated love may as well be set down here, though Ffrench did not learn it till long afterward,—not till H. M. S. Tenedos cast anchor in San Francisco Bay, and Ffrench made the acquaintance of a certain lieutenant who had known Meagher in Callao. The Irishman had seen the beautiful daughter of a high Peruvian official, as she drove past him in her carriage on the Paseo de los Descalzos. His combustible heart had taken fire at once, and happening to meet her a few days afterward near his place of business in Callao, he assumed that the lady returned his affection, and had merely sought the port for an opportunity of seeing him. In this conviction he had gone straight to Lima, called upon her father, and requested his daughter’s hand. The old gentleman did not look with favor on the suit, and when he had consulted the young girl, and ascertained that she had never heard of her presumptuous wooer, he secured Meagher’s dismissal from the government smelting-works, in which the young man was employed, and gave him to understand that his future prospects in Peru were by no means rosy. Under these circumstances, Carrick found it advisable to depart, and he sailed for San Francisco without a single word or a second glance from the lady for whose sake he had borne so much. But he always kept her memory green, and spoke of her — but never by name — with profound emotion.

Gerald, knowing nothing of all this, sympathized with his friend as one crossed in love and despotically separated from all he held dear ; while Carrick, his eyes suffused with tears or blazing with excitement, according to the mood that happened to be uppermost, would bewail his evil fortune or drown his sorrows in whiskey, and sing almost in the same breath The Girl I left Behind Me, or a French drinking-song in praise of “ la dive bouteille.”

The little fellow was as honest as the day, profusely generous, and endowed with a mind Originally brilliant, and now stored, by reading and travel, with scraps of all sorts of unexpected and fascinating information. These are the equipments of a very agreeable companion. and such Ffrench found him ; but Meagher had his drawbacks. He was absurdly theatrical in speech and manner, and this effect was enhanced rather than lessened by his diminutive stature, — he was only just over five feet, — and by the quizzical way his little face peeped out from its jungle of whisker, which nothing would persuade him either to trim or shave.

But such peculiarities were of small moment. Gerald soon ceased to notice them, and the two spent most of their evenings in company. Carrick’s stories of travel and adventure, surprising as most of them were, established their truthfulness by various minute details which no repetition could varyHe had endured many buffets from fortune. Once he had been rich. — he had located a gold mine in Mexico; every possible test had borne witness to its value, and he had almost concluded the sale of a half interest for one hundred thousand dollars. But on returning to his location, accompanied by the experts whose report was to be final, he could not find the mine. The whole face of the country had changed. Carrick’s claim had vanished, and the fortune he had so confidently reckoned upon lay buried beneath hundreds of feet of miry, pasty water. A mud volcano had come between Carrick and competence.

On another occasion, he had been enlarging on the advantages of quick and straight shooting. " Niver pull a pistol unless you mane to shoot,” he said, “ an’ niver shoot unless you mane to kill.” This maxim he illustrated, as was his custom, by sundry leaves culled from the book of his experience. Gerald ventured to doubt one specially “ tall ” feat in marksmanship.

“ If I had me own gun ” — answered Carrick. “ But sure I may as well have it as not. I can afford it now. Come along wid me.”

He led his friend to an adjacent pawnshop, and there regained possession of a revolver which he had been compelled to pledge in the early days of his destitution. Ffrencli witnessed half an hour’s practice in a Kearney Street shooting-gallery, and acknowledged that Carrick had not exaggerated his skill with the weapon.

The Irishman was fond of the theatre, and was positively greedy of Shakespearean performances. He was always in his place before the curtain rose, and would sit through the five acts, motionless, silent, his eyes fixed on the stage. He was very critical of the acting in his favorite masterpieces. A popular tragedian arrived from the Eastern States, and gave, in the course of his repertory, two nights of Othello, supported by a local company. Carrick was present, of course. Mr. Kemble Scott played lago the first evening, and Othello the second. It so happened that after the latter performance Gerald and Carrick Meagher, in search of refreshment on their way home, wandered into the hotel which Mr. Kemble Scott patronized, and there found him.

The actor had met Ffrench in New York during the latter’s brief and bright days of splendor. He remembered the young fellow, and greeted him warmly. Gerald took occasion to present his friend, Mr. Meagher, and the great man acknowledged the introduction with a patronizing nod ; but Carrick had small sense of reverence, and absolutely no discretion. He had formed a decided opinion as to the merits of the two performances he had seen, and was as ready to discuss them with the person most concerned as he would have been to argue with Herr Wagner on the future of music, or to set right Professor Agassiz on a question of zoölogy. With his wonted volubility Carrick began : —

“ I’ m glad to mate ye. Mr. Scott. I saw your two impersonations this wake.”

“Indeed?” answered the actor, with the stereotyped smile which he reserved for the compliments to which he was well accustomed. “ I trust you do not consider your time thrown away ? ”

“ Not complately,” was Carrick’s unexpected reply. “ There were plenty of good pints in your representation of Iago; but your conciption of the character of the dusky Moor was altogither erroneous.”

Mr. Kemble Scott was completely taken aback.

“ Indeed ! ” he stammered at last. “ I trust, Mr. — Mr. — I beg your pardon, but your name escaped me.”

“ There’s me card, sir,” responded Carrick, handing the other the bit of pasteboard. “ I know how hard it is to catch a name as yet untrumpeted of noisy fame, but for all that there ’s mine, and it’s one I’ve no call to be ashamed of.”

By this time the tragedian had mastered — as he imagined — the script on the card.

“ Well, Mr. Meagre” — he began; but a bellow of indignant expostulation from Carrick cut him short: —

“ You need n’t thry to make fun of me nor of an honored name, becase I ventured to indulge in a bit of just criticism, which, av I 'd known ye were so sinsitive, I ’d have kept to meself.”

“ I beg your pardon,” interposed Mr. Kemble Scott, still polite, though by this time he was not certain he had not to do with a madman. " I beg your pardon,” — he scrutinized the card again, — “ but if you can pronounce M-e-a-g-h-e-r any way except Meagre ” —

“ Ye can pronounce it Mar, sir, — same as if it rhymed with ‘ star,’ which you ’re fond of calling yourself. Mar-r-r-r, av ye plaze, with th’ accint on the r, an’ good-evenin’ to you.”

With this Garrick stalked wrathfully from the room, muttering as he went, “ I ’m wrong to be vexed at the poor fellow, for av he can’t read an’ can’t act it’s a bad lookout for him in his ould age.”

Gerald lingered to offer the perplexed tragedian such explanations as were possible, and this ended the incident. Meagher, however, absented himself from the theatre during the remainder of Mr. Kemble Scott’s engagement. Not even to see his favorite Hamlet would he condone the insult offered to his honored name.

Shortly after this occurrence — the most lasting effect of which was to inspire in Carrick a settled distaste to American actors and all their ways — the Irish Eagle folded its wings, and died without a struggle. Meagher’s advice and assistance now became invaluable to Gerald, and it was mainly owing to his friend that the young editor quickly secured humbler but more remunerative employment on the city press.

III.

For two years this oddly assorted friendship had subsisted, unbroken by even the most passing coolness, when a series of events led to a separation which Ffrench has almost ceased to hope will not prove permanent.

Gerald was attached to a stock and mining journal, and he frequently had occasion to lay under contribution his friend’s expert knowledge of the subjects of which it treated. He was accordingly always well pleased to see Carrick enter the office.

Looking in one forenoon, as he often did, Meagher found Gerald seated, pen in hand, surrounded by specimens from an Arizona mine, which it was his immediate duty to panegyrize, or, in the language of the street, to “ boom.”

The little man dropped into a seat, and heaved a deep sigh.

“ I drained of my pobre cita last night,” began Carrick. “ Ah, love for a year, a wake, a day, but alas for the love that loves alway.”

“ Bother your pobre cita! ” exclaimed Ffrench impatiently. In these moods, as he knew from experience, Carrick could seldom be reckoned on for counsel or assistance.

“ Ah, ye ’re young,” said Meagher, not in the least offended; for he had at the service of his friends a temper which nothing could ruffle.

Gerald silently wrote on.

“ What are ye doin’ ? Erectin’ a column ? ” inquired Carrick presently, when the stillness had lasted as long as his voluble nature could endure.

“ Trying to,” replied Gerald briefly. “ I ’ve a notice of this mine to write up for to-morrow’s paper.”

“ This mine ! ” echoed Meagher, who had amused himself looking over the specimens at Gerald’s elbow. “ These half dozen mines, you should say.”

“ Well, I should n’t, smarty ! ” retorted Ffrench, who had been put out by the other’s unseasonable love reminiscences. “ These are all from one mine.”

“ Well, they ’re not; you can’t fool me! ” cried Carrick, with an awakening of professional interest. “ Wan, two, three, four, — these specimens are faked. They never came from wan mine, nor from ten miles from wan another. It’s a salted claim they ’re playin’ on you, my poor Gerald.”

“ Are you sure ? ” exclaimed Ffrench, dropping his pen.

“ Am I sure ? ” repeated Carrick disdainfully. “ Do I know quartz from bitter spar, an’ aither of them from metallic sulphides? What’s that? Iron pyrites. An’ what’s that? Quartzose gangues. An’ will you dar’ to tell me they all came out of the wan mine ? Go ’long wid you ! ”

“ This is serious,” said Gerald. “ I know Verplanck fancies this mine very much, and is going to put money in it. Suppose we send for him.”

The office boy was dispatched to summon the proprietor of the paper; and to him, in more temperate language, Carrick repeated the conclusion he had arrived at from his inspection of the specimens.

Mr. Verplanck knew his informant well, and had often profited by his trained experience in matters of mineralogy. The result of half an hour’s conversation was an order to Gerald to tear up the article he had commenced, and begin another, denouncing the Ida mine as one of the biggest frauds that had ever been attempted on California Street.

Mr. Verplack’s virtuous indignation was whetted by the fact that he had himself narrowly escaped becoming a victim, and he instructed Ffrench not to spare his superlatives. Before the hour of next, day’s “ Board ” Ida’s character was ruined.

But no man can put a stop to a nefarious scheme whereby others expect to profit without making an enemy of some one. The identity of the expert whose timely opinion had dealt a death-blow to this promising swindle was an open secret. Meagher received profuse thanks and other more substantial expressions of gratitude from those whose money he had saved; but in certain quarters “ curses not loud, but deep,”were breathed on the “ meddlesome little Irishman.” Unfortunately, among those whose game he had spoiled were some who were accustomed to carry their irritation beyond the blasphemy point, — men whose path it was dangerous to cross, and who were not wont to stick at trifles in pursuit either of profit or of vengeance.

A few nights after the exposure of the “ Ida swindle,” as it was called, Gerald and Carrick attended a performance at the California Theatre. They had supper afterward at the Poodle Dog, and it was long past midnight when they turned into Mission Street, on their way home; for the two inseparables roomed together. Mission Street is a lonesome neighborhood after ten or eleven at night, and for block after block the friends had the sidewalk to themselves.

Suddenly, as they passed the corner of Fifth Street, three men sprang out of a dark doorway. Their feet echoed on the deserted pavement, and Gerald turned just in time to see a murderous bludgeon above his head. Instinctively he raised his arm, and caught the blow as it descended. The limb dropped to his side, numb and useless, and a feeling of faintness crept over him. The loaded stick was poised for a second blow. Gerald could only close his eyes and wait for it. He could not stir from the spot ; he could not even look to see how it fared with his companion. There was no time to collect his thoughts or rally his energies. Not three seconds had elapsed since he was walking gayly homeward, and now he stood maimed and helpless, expecting nothing but death.

One, two, — sharp and clear rang out the twin reports of a revolver. Ffrench opened his eyes. The blow had not fallen, and the assassin lay writhing at his feet, clutching the heavy “ knuckle duster " in his convulsive grasp. In that moment the young journalist had tasted the bitterness of death.

Carrick Meagher stepped across a second form, prostrate like the other, but motionless, and covered with his pistol a shadowy figure, still visible a dozen paces off, but fast vanishing in the darkness. Gerald found his tongue.

“ Shoot, shoot ! ” he cried, in a trembling voice. “ He 'll be out of sight ! ”

Carrick appeared to deliberate a moment, and then returned the revolver to his overcoat pocket.

“An’ let him go,” he said unconcernedly. “ Niver shoot a man unless you ve got to, — that’s always a good rule. Let ’s look at these fellows, an’ see what ’s the matter wid ’em.”

Matter enough. One lay stone dead, — shot through the heart; and the other, even while they tried to raise him, breathed his last.

As they laid the body down, Carrick noticed that Gerald did not use his left arm.

“ What’s wrong wid ye ? Did he get in a lick at ye ? ”

“ Yes ; I stopped the first blow with my arm,” answered Gerald.

“ An’ a good job ye did,” replied Carrick. “ I dodged the welt that fellow med at me, an’ then I pulled iron. Draw quick, shoot straight, — them two mottoes, along with a gun you can depind on, will carry a man across the wurruld.”

Gerald’s reply, begun in a spirit of incoherent gratitude, was cut short by the sound of footsteps rapidly approaching. A policeman, attracted by the pistol-shots, came up at a run. No doubt it was the fear of some such interruption that had impelled the assailants to choose, instead of firearms, the more silent and no less deadly bludgeon.

“ Here, what ’s the meaning of all this ? ” inquired the officer as he halted.

“ It manes,” answered Carrick calmly, “ that some of the smarties who tried to put up a job on the Ida have been trying to put up a job on my frind an’ me, but I got the drop on them.”

Subsequent investigation proved that Meagher had correctly divined the motive of the attempt on his life at the very instant of its failure.

Other officers were summoned, and the dead bodies were carried away. The policeman who first appeared arrested Gerald and Carrick, and the party retraced its steps to the city hall.

Meagher was uneasy and inclined to be restive under restraint.

“ It’s all very well for you to talk,” he said, in answer to a reassuring remark of Gerald, “ but I don’t like it. I spent a whole wake in the lock-up at Valparaiso by rason of a scrape that I had no more to do wid than Noah’s grandfather; an’ I tell ye I don’t like it.”

But their detention was brief. As newspaper men, both were well known at headquarters, and, late as was the hour, Mr, Verplanck and several substantial citizens soon appeared in response to an urgent message. Bail was quickly arranged, and the friends found themselves at liberty.

“ What shall we do now ? ” inquired Gerald, as they quitted the gloomy building on Kearney Street.

“ Go home an’ go to bed. What else ? ” was Meagher’s matter-of-fact reply. “ Sure it’s after three o’clock.”

Gerald expressed his willingness to retire, but positively refused to repeat the lonely tramp up Mission Street. He wished to go to a hotel, but it was difficult to make Carrick understand his reasons.

“ Is it the other chap you ’re afraid of ? ” be asked. “ I 'll bet you a dollar he’s runnin’ yet. Av he’d been any less scared, I’d have shot him too.”

“ No, it isn’t, the other chap I 'm afraid of but have you no nerves, man ? Do you feel like passing the place where those fellows were shot down not two hours ago ? ”

“ Sure they ’re gone,” answered Carrick. “ Did n’t you see them taken out o’ that before we left it ? ”

At last Gerald carried his point, and Meagher, grumbling at what he called “ a sinseless bit of extravagance,” secured accommodations at the Occidental.

The inquest completely exonerated the two journalists, and its revelations made a three days’ hero of Carrick Meagher, who, however, bore his honors uneasily. As soon as the verdict of " justifiable homicide ” had been rendered, he was at pains to ascertain that his bailers had been discharged from their bond. Then he went straight to the Pacific Mail Company’s offices and purchased a ticket for Hong Kong.

“ What do you want that for ? ” inquired the bewildered Gerald, when Meagher displayed his purchase.

“ I want it to go to China wid, an’ that’s where I’m going on the very first steamer, an’ that’s the day after to-morrow.

“ What for ? ” gasped Ffrench.

“ Well, several rusons. I ’ve been longer in 'Frisco than I ve any business to stay in any wan town ; then I 've been over a good share of the wurruld, an’ niver yet seen a Jap or a Chinaman on his native heath; an’ there’s another rason.”

“ What is it ? ” inquired Gerald.

“ Well — niver mind what it is,” answered Carrick. “ Isn’t it enough that I’m blue-moulded for want of a bit of change ? Let that content you.”

“ But it does not content me,” urged his friend. “ You are doing well here; you 're happy and comfortable ” —

“Ah,” sighed Meagher, " it’s little ye know. Pobre cita !”

“ Well,” pursued Ffrench, “ she ’ll worry you just as much in China as she does here, and you won’t have me to talk to. Come, take back your ticket, — you can get rid of it, I’m sure, — and stay where you are. You had no notion of this sudden flitting a week ago.”

“ Well, I had n’t,” admitted Carrick, with a burst of candor. It’s this way, Gerald. There ’s only wan thing in the wurruld I ’m afraid of. If they locked me up. I ’d die or go out of my head. I could n’t stand it.”

“ But why should they lock you up ? You have committed no crime, and a jury has exonerated you.”

“ I have n’t much confidence in a jury, " answered Meagher. " I saw too much of them in Ireland when I was a boy. What odds what wan jury says ? Did you niver hear of a flaw in an indictment, an’ is n’t it full as aisy to find flaws in an acquittal? No. I ’ll skip out to China while I 'm free, an’ while it won’t cost Verplanck nor any one else a cint, as it would av I had to be bailed again.”

Gerald lost patience.

“ Can’t you understand ? The law says " — he began, but Meagher interrupted him : —

“ What odds what the law says ? It ’s always sayin’ wan thing an’ manin’ another. I ’ve no use for law ; I niver had, an’ I hate the sight of it. I can’t help it; I was born so. I ’d like a country where ivery man’s hands had to keep his own head, an’ where there were wild bastes an’ divils instead of lawyers. Day after to-morrow I ’ll sail for China, an’ av ye 'll come down an’ see me off I 'll take it kindly of you, Gerald.”

And on the day appointed he did sail. Gerald, with many another friend, was on the wharf when the big steamer moved out, for the little Irishman had become both popular and famous.

Ffrench’s eyes grew misty as he watched the small familiar figure, till distance rendered it undistinguishable. Then he turned slowly away, wondering if they two would ever meet again. He put no faith in Carrick’s promises to write, for he observed that the wanderer appeared to have left no correspondents behind him in the various lands he had visited. Ffrench’s misgivings were justified. Many a mail came from the distant East, but never a line in the odd, sprawling handwriting which Carrick Meagher affected.

Gerald has paid more than one visit to his Irish home since those “ Bonanza Days of the Seventies ; ” he has made frequent sojourns in the Eastern States ; but he has never met his quaint and brilliant friend. He thinks of Carrick Meagher now as of a dissolving view of a very strange humanity; coming out of the unexplored darkness, shining for a brief space with a fascinating lustre, and fading away again into unknowable obscurity. The circle of their two lives touched only at a single point.

Still Gerald cherishes the hope that he may see or hear of him again. No strange and mysterious individuality can arise to defy speculation without bringing up in Ffrench’s mind thoughts of the vagrant genius who ate and lived with him for two years in San Francisco. When the young journalist read of the White Pasha who had so wondrously appeared in the heart of Africa, he was seized with a wild idea that this might be his old friend. For Gerald Ffrench is well convinced that this was no ordinary man, and that no commonplace fate awaits him. Some day or another, in some strange and distant country, in some startling, unexpected way, Gerald looks to see written across the history of his times the eccentric signature of Carrick Meagher.

George H. Jessop.